ARCHIVED - Letter
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Ottawa, 15 November 2012
Mr. Robert Hersche
Director of Regulatory Affairs
Saskatchewan Telecommunications (SaskTel)
2121 Saskatchewan Drive
Regina, Saskatchewan S4P 3Y2
File No.: 8678-S22-201206756 - Application for Use of Deferral Account funds to improve access to telecommunications services for persons with disabilities
This letter is regarding the application filed by Saskatchewan Telecommunications (SaskTel), in accordance with Part 1 of the CRTC Rules of Practice and Procedure (the Rules), to direct the remaining monies in its deferral account to improve access to persons with disabilities to the following three initiatives:
- 554,300 to the Regina and District Association of Community Living (RACL);
- $63,700 to improve the accessibility of SaskTel’s web-based email service for persons using screen-readers; and
- $97,600 to upgrade in-building wiring in multi-dwelling units (MDUs) owned by Saskatchewan Housing Corporation (SHC) designated for persons with disabilities.
The Commission received comments from the Canadian Association of the Deaf (CAD) and Shaw Communications Inc. (Shaw) on various elements of SaskTel’s application.
The public record of this proceeding, which closed on 20 August 2012, is available on the Commission’s website at www.crtc.gc.ca under “Public Proceedings” or by using the file number provided above.
This letter sets out the Commission’s decisions with respect to the three proposed initiatives.
Regina and District Association of Community Living (RACL)
SaskTel proposed that $554,300 be transferred to RACL, a charity that serves persons with cognitive/intellectual disabilities, for its investment in a fund for the provision of telecommunication technology and related training to persons served by RACL. These funds are what remain of the $928,300 that SaskTel had initially estimated would be required for the Commission approved initiative to introduce Internet Protocol Relay Service (IPRS) in Saskatchewan. A copy of a draft three year memorandum of understanding (MOU) between SaskTel and RACL was filed with the Commission.
In its intervention, CAD argued that the transfer of such a sizeable amount of funds from “deaf initiatives” without consultation with the Deaf community of Saskatchewan was unacceptable. The Commission notes that SaskTel has introduced IPRS, for less money than initially expected, and has also completed two other initiatives that directly benefit Deaf persons: unified messaging and the provision of TTY units to transition houses. Further, the RACL initiative benefits persons with cognitive/intellectual disabilities, a community that has generally been underrepresented in Deferral Account initiatives.
Shaw, in its intervention, supported the initiative, contingent on the removal of clauses from the MOU that, in its view, conferred a competitive advantage to SaskTel.
Accordingly, the Commission approves the RACL initiative, subject to the amendments to the MOU or funding mechanism, or both, described in the following paragraphs and in the Appendix to this letter. SaskTel is to file the amended documentation for Commission approval, no later than 17 December 2012.
Scope: RACL is a Regina based organization and SaskTel has confirmed that the programs created through this initiative will be available to all persons with cognitive/intellectual disabilities who are permanent residents of Saskatchewan whether or not they are members of RACL. To ensure that this is the case, the Commission directs SaskTel to modify the MOU, to clarify that eligibility to participate in any program resulting from this initiative will not be dependent upon RACL membership and to provide for province-wide publicity to make certain that there is broad public awareness of the initiative and any resulting programs.
Accountability: To ensure accountability for the accessibility of deferral account funds, the Commission directs SaskTel to modify the MOU or the funding mechanism, or both, in order to:
- ensure that the funds are used by RACL for the specified purposes;
- provide for the return of any remaining funds to SaskTel at the conclusion of the agreement;
- provide that, with Commission approval, any funds not used for the specified purposes be returned to SaskTel;
- provide that any assignment of the MOU require Commission approval; and
- require RACL to provide an audited annual report to SaskTel, to be forwarded to the Commission.
The Commission directs SaskTel to forward the initiative’s annual audited report to the Commission within 30 days of receiving it from RACL.
Competitive Neutrality: In the MOU, there are two clauses concerning SaskTel being the provider of choice for RACL. It is the view of the Commission that these clauses confer a competitive advantage to SaskTel, a concern also raised by Shaw in its intervention. Accordingly, the Commission directs SaskTel to remove these clauses from the MOU.
Improve the accessibility of SaskTel’s web-based email service
In Use of deferral account funds to improve access to telecommunications services for persons with disabilities and to expand broadband services to rural and remote communities, Telecom Decision 2008-1, 17 January 2008 (Decision 2008-1), the Commission approved SaskTel’s initiative to improve the overall accessibility of its website. SaskTel had initially estimated $103,600 for this initiative and to date had spent $39,900. During the course of its review of its website, SaskTel became aware of an accessibility issue related to its web-based email service. SaskTel proposed that the remaining $63,700 be directed to an initiative to improve the accessibility of its web-based email service for persons using screen-readers.
In its intervention, CAD requested that rather than approving this initiative, the Commission direct SaskTel to improve its website accessibility for Deaf persons by providing professionally produced sign-language videos.
Shaw, in its intervention, supported SaskTel’s initiative.
The Commission notes that SaskTel’s proposal falls within its overall website accessibility initiative approved by the Commission in Decision 2008-1 for “ongoing review and incremental changes” to its website content for accessibility, including compliance with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (W3C Guidelines), which the Commission encourages in its Accessibility Policy (Accessibility of telecommunications and broadcasting services, Broadcasting and Telecom Regulatory Policy 2009-430, 21 July 2009). The W3C puts a higher priority on the interoperability of user assistive technologies with web technologies (i.e. the use of screen readers) over the provision of sign language interpretation for video content.
Accordingly, the Commission approves this initiative. SaskTel is to file with the Commission no later than 17 December 2012, clear timelines for the completion of this initiative and to continue to file annual reports on this initiative by 31 March each year until the initiative is completed.
Upgrade in-building wiring in MDUs owned by Saskatchewan Housing Corporation (SHC) that are designated for persons with disabilities
SaskTel proposed that $97,600 be directed to an initiative to upgrade in-building wiring in multi-dwelling units (MDUs) owned by Saskatchewan Housing Corporation (SHC) that are designated for persons with disabilities. These MDUs are located in Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Regina.
In its intervention, CAD requested that the Commission direct SaskTel to collect and report information as to the incidence of deafness among the tenants living in the MDUs and to explain how Deaf clients may benefit from this initiative. The Commission is of the view that CAD did not provide compelling evidence to justify additional information collection and reporting requirements and notes that Deaf persons will have the same access to the upgraded wiring as other residents of these MDUs.
Shaw also intervened, arguing that the MDUs in Saskatoon and Moose Jaw are currently able to receive Shaw’s enhanced telecommunication services similar to those referenced in SaskTel’s proposal. The Commission notes that this initiative will improve access to communication services for persons with disabilities through increased broadband availability and choice of services, providers and capacities (fibre, coax, copper). The Commission also notes that the access to this wiring will be governed by Provision of telecommunications services to customers in multi-dwelling units, Telecom Decision
2003-45, 20 June 2003.
Accordingly, the Commission approves this initiative and directs SaskTel to continue to provide annual reporting on this initiative by 31 March each year until this initiative is completed.
This letter will be posted on the Commission’s website, and SaskTel’s response and any subsequent filings will become part of a publicly accessible file. For these reasons, if any documents filed contain information designated confidential, including personal information, such as full names, e-mail addresses, postal/street addresses, telephone and facsimile numbers, please provide an abridged version of this information. Confidential documents submitted must follow this naming convention: Not Web - Confidential - "brief description of the document". Abridged version of confidential documents submitted must follow this naming convention: Abridged version - "same description of document for which confidentiality is requested". Only identifying the information confidential within the body of the document is insufficient.
c.c. James Roots
Canadian Association of the Deaf
Senior Vice President, Regulatory Affairs
Shaw Communications Inc.
1. Amend clause 5.1 permitting assignment of the MOU on consent to require Commission approval for assignment.
2. Specify in clause 2.5 that RACL is to provide SaskTel with an annual audited report setting out the amount remaining to be spent; amount spent on telecommunications products and services; and a list of programs, with the specifics of the program, how each improves access to telecommunications, and the amount spent by each.
3. Specify in clause 4.1 what will happen to any money remaining at the conclusion of agreement.
4. Make the necessary changes to the MOU or the funding mechanism, or both, to ensure that funds are used by RACL for the specified purpose and to provide for the return of the funds to SaskTel, with Commission approval, should they not be used for the purposes set out in the MOU.
5. Delete third bullet in clause 1 regarding the development of SaskTel as the telecommunications supplier of choice for RACL members.
6. Delete clause 2.9 regarding SaskTel being the supplier of choice.
Scope and Goals
7. Revise first and second bullets of clause 1 to make it clear that the initiative applies to all permanent residents of Saskatchewan with cognitive/intellectual disabilities. Revise language of clause 2.4 to make it clear that access to this initiative’s funding will be open to all permanent residents of Saskatchewan with cognitive/intellectual disabilities, whether or not they are members of RACL.
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